U.N. rapporteur supports family’s right to know about fisheries official’s death

SEOUL-- The U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation said Tuesday that the family of a South Korean government official killed by the North in 2020 has the right to know about the death of their loved one, according to the family's lawyer.

Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana made the remark during a meeting with family members of the late fisheries official, Lee Dae-jin, who was shot and killed by North Korea's military near the western sea border on Sept. 22, 2020, according to the family's lawyer.

His family has demanded access to classified presidential documents to determine why the previous Moon Jae-in government announced, without sufficient evidence, that their loved one was shot and killed while attempting to defect to the North.

After President Yoon Suk-yeol took office last month, the Coast Guard and the defense ministry revisited the case before overturning their previous conclusion on the alleged defection attempt while apologizing to the bereaved family.

The Presidential Archive has rejected the family's demand for access to classified documents.

Presidential documents are sealed for up to 30 years from the end of presidencies, with a legal exception for their disclosure if they are considered vital evidence in an investigation. The documents can be opened upon parliamentary approval from two-thirds of lawmakers or a warrant issued by a higher court in the jurisdiction.

The U.N. rapporteur was also quoted as saying that he cannot officially advise the National Assembly to disclose the information but believes his thoughts have been fully delivered to the lawmakers.

He also said the North should reveal the truth, punish those responsible and pay compensation to the bereaved family, according to the lawyer.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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